On a fateful Friday evening in Nov. 2011, I received a call that sent shivers down my spine. It was from my girls’ school. It was from Children Social Services!!!!! I work with children and families and I have made this type of call a lot of times. I know the score; I know the drill. However, now the table is turned towards me. No doctor ever prays to be a patient in the emergency room (ER). On the morning of this fateful day, Tito my elder daughter was up to her antics yet again. She was arguing and bickering with her sister. We were nearly running late. I was frantic with worry. I was shouting orders to them to get it together. She was crying over something I didn’t quite understand. She screamed at me, “Mum, you have ears, what are they made for?” Now, insane brought up in a country with a culture and tradition that respects elders. I would never say that to my elder sister who is just a few years older than me how much more my mother!!!! I pride myself on how well I try to bring my children up. I lost my cool; I spanked her whilst explaining the reason as well.
Now, I facilitate parenting programmes and beating is NEVER an option. However, on that day all methods of managing misbehaviour flew out of the window. I knew about setting clear ground rules; using directed discussion for rule breaking; using quiet time and time out. On that day, her cup runneth over. I was at my tether’s end. I spanked her because I was mad at her choice of words. I spanked her because I felt she had not lived up to all I taught her. However, I didn’t do it within the dictates of the law. I used an implement; “omorogun” is what Yorubas call it; I think spatula is the English word. The UK law states that you can smack a child but not with an implement and no mark must be left on the child. So I got that dreaded call to come right away. I was so petrified and apprehensive with several thoughts going through my head and mind. Prior to that, Tito had been having a phase of constantly getting in trouble in school. She was allegedly accused of cutting a child’s hair in school. It could not be proved because there were no witnesses. She had also been rude to her teacher; all in the same week. So you can imagine my struggles.
So, I got to the school and there was a Social Worker and a Police officer. They started by telling me there was an allegation against me by my daughter. She had gotten in trouble that day again and was told to write a reflective report of what she did wrong. Innocently, she wrote everything and stated, “Please don’t tell my mum because she will beat me”. The head teacher read it and because these are safeguarding concerns, she promptly made a referral to Children Social Care. They provide services that promote, safeguard and improve the well-being of all children in the UK. If Children Social Care feels a child is suffering any form of abuse, they step in and it is a long journey with the main focus on the well-being of the child. The positive thing is when Tito was asked if she was scared of going home she said no because her granddad would be coming that weekend and she loves her family. Otherwise, she might have been taken from our care that weekend and put on a child protection register pending when an arrangement is made.
I am sharing this to demonstrate how challenging it is to raise a child in a country where electricity or food is not an issue. We have now been brought to the notice of Children’s Social Care. However, we have only had a visit in January which shows they do not think she is being abused. However, I have had my baptismal of fire. I’ve learnt to control myself when my girls push my buttons. I have devised a better method of reinforcing instructions by being calm and staying in control. This way I do not fall into the escalation trap where issues are escalated and it turns into a shouting match. Also, to manage misbehaviour I withdraw privileges; she loves to play on the computer. So when she is naughty I take away the luxury of playing on the computer for a stipulated time and I stick to it for consistency sake.
The road is long but it starts with a step and we have taken that step. Did I mention that I go on my knees?